There are lies we tell ourselves about marketing. Some are about the work. Some are about how we measure the work. And some of them are about the consumer. Many of these are born out of honest ignorance. Things we can’t know or understand. But when we come across that which is clearly demonstrated to be untrue, it is foolishness not to correct, right?
Then consider this: according to Bridget Brennan, author of Why She Buys, approximately 80% of everything is bought by or heavily influenced by women. If that’s so, why do we talk to them like they’re not there? Why do we act like men actually buy everything? And what would happen if we stopped marketing this way, and started really analyzing the thinking, decision-making and shopping habits of the people who actually purchased our products and services?
We’d probably sell more stuff and all be more successful, right? And who wants that? Yeah, me too.
To be sure, we have been flooded recently with books on this topic. But so far, none have addressed it, the ramifications, and most importantly the opportunities as well as Ms. Brennan has, making Why She Buys absolutely indispensable.
Be forewarned: it is a book that requires several paradigm shifts – although Brennan takes you through them clearly and with footnotes. For example, at one point she goes category by category to show just how much and what kind of real tangible influence women have over the purchase decision. Not just in a category one might expect women to dominate – say healthcare for example – but in those categories where women are as rare in the advertising as white buffalos are on the great plains. Like automotive, financial, or gaming. Yes, gaming. 40% of gamers are women. At least, according to the Electronic Software Association.
The next big paradigm shift that Brennan forces us to accept is to recognize that, to paraphrase Scott Fitzgerald, women are different from men. They define achievement differently. They react to emotional scenes and conflict differently. They interact with other members of their own sex differently. Now think about that for a second – Achievement, Conflict and Interaction – ever try to build an marketing campaign without those three pillars? Of course not. Which means that if you’ve been using them to build campaigns for, say, the insurance industry, you’ve been talking the wrong language for 90% of your decision-makers. Congratulations.
Most authors on this topic would be content to stop there. But not Brennan. Because one of the really useful things Why She Buys does is discuss the ramifications of this abstract realization in the context of women’s very real lives today. For example, in chapter three where she identifies and explains five global trends that are driving female consumers – and what their marketing implications are (e.g., “#3 – Lower birthrates globally mean fewer kids but more ‘stuff’” or “#4 – The divorce economy means two of everything”). In other words, Brennan doesn’t just talk about how to talk to women to sell them stuff; she’s talking about listening to women to find out what they’re buying – or going to be buying – and why.
By chapter six Brennan has taken her thesis all the way to the other end of the transaction. How selling to women – in the store, salesperson to customer, the “final three feet” – is an entirely different proposition than it is when selling to men, and what you can do to improve your chances there. Or said another way, how women interact at the point of sale, what is important to them, what isn’t, and more importantly, why, why why.
Peppered throughout the book are interviews, case studies, examples, and, as mentioned earlier, footnotes, all of which anchor her observations in fact and third party legitimacy, and add depth and substance to her arguments. And yet, the book’s light style and friendly tone make it highly readable. All in all, Why She Buys is an impressive and valuable contribution to any marketer’s library and should be bought by anyone – male or female – who wants to succeed in the new economy.